Middle East peace process is charade, argue experts

By Marcus Dysch, September 28, 2010

A panel of politicians, foreign affairs analysts and historians has convinced an audience of more than 1,000 people that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is a "charade".

An Intelligence Squared debate in central London last week discussed the impact of settlements, Iran and the international community on the talks.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami led the argument in favour of the motion "the Middle East peace process is a charade", with former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk defending the process.

The final vote was close, but 543 people voted in favour of the motion - that the process was a charade - with 521 against and 40 abstaining.

Mr Ben Ami said the current phase of the talks suffered from "Israeli indifference. They are entirely blasé. Netanyahu is not yet ready to go through the process and pay the high price that needs to be paid."

He said the Israeli Prime Minister saw himself "as a sort of Israeli Churchill, saving the country from the likes of Iran".

But Mr Indyk said: "We have, on the Israeli side, a right-wing PM who for the first time says there is a partner for peace in Abu Mazen. Abu Mazen is committed to trying to make peace through negotiations and is thoroughly opposed to violence. The circumstances are quite different today to those of the last 10 years. There's some reason for cautious optimism. If an agreement is possible the public will support it. That's very different to the 1990s."

However, Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian General Delegate to the UK, used the opportunity to attack Israel.

He said: "Israel has no other choice but to negotiate. It will remain a pariah state in the region if it will not negotiate. It's only a matter of time before Israel will crumble, from within or without."

Former Palestinian presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti added: "It is a charade, not because we are against peace, but because we cannot allow ourselves one more time to substitute peace with an illusion of peace.

"It's shameful that Israel, after all the Jewish people have gone through, is allowing an apartheid system."

Military strategist Edward Luttwak slammed the peace process. He was applauded when he criticised Turkey Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's comments on Palestinian rights. Mr Luttwak said the comments had been hypocritical given the plight of the country's 20 million Kurds.

He added: "Let me tell you, President Obama is committed to winning - in Iowa. There is no commitment [to the peace process]. People in the West Bank understand what's going on. They are building and constructing. The process is nefarious because it creates illusions."

Last updated: 1:08pm, September 28 2010